10 Best Whale Watching Destinations in the USA

Whales are majestic, misunderstood creatures—and when they come to surface from the ocean depths, it’s an awesome experience. The first time you go whale-watching and see that puff of ocean spray or a slapping tail, you are going to fall in love! Fortunately, there are whale-watching locations all throughout the coasts of America. Here are the 10 best whale-watching destinations in the USA.

1: Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay, Alaska

The Whales: Blue Whales, Minke, Orca, and Humpback
When to Go: June to August
Did you know that the blue whales you see here are often coming all the way from Japan? On a clear day, the waters around Glacier Bay are practically roiling with all the activity beneath the surface. Take a cruise out into the waters so you can see humpbacks, minkes, orcas, and blue whales as well as the breathtaking mountains and glaciers throughout the region.

Address: Glacier Bay, AK

2: Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Mark Mitchell

The Whales: Orca and Humpbacks
When to Go: April to November
The capital of Alaska might be cold and frozen over most of the year, but it truly throws a warm welcome for the whales that make an appearance from April to November. You can usually see humpback whales from the shoreline; but if it is killer Orcas you are looking for, you can board an expedition cruise and see them in the wild.

Address: Juneau, AK

3: Monterey Bay, California

Monterey Bay, California
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Mitchel Jones

The Whales: Gray, Blue, and Humpbacks
When to Go: All Year
Whenever you go to Monterey Bay, there will definitely be whales. The bay where whales gather is found in Central California, so the waters are rich and warm. In April through December, you can see humpback and blue whales. Gray whales appear from December to April. Monterey Bay also has attracted killer whales (orcas) to the waters, because they hunt gray whales as they migrate north.

Address: Monterey Bay, CA

4: San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands, Washington
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Ingrid Taylar

The Whales: Orca Whales, Gray, Minke, Humpback
When to Go: Mid-April to Early October
When the largest island of the San Juan Islands chain is named “Orcas Island,” you know you’ve stumbled upon an incredible breeding ground for Orca whales. Though the black-and-white whales are the predominant species in the area and nicknamed the “Southern Residents”, you can also see other whale species if you look hard enough. San Juan Islands are also home to seals, porpoises, otters, and sea lions.

Address: San Juan Islands, WA

5: Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine
Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia/Amy Humphries

The Whales: Minke, Fin, and Right Whales
When to Go: Mid-April to October
Summer in Maine has never been more fun! There are daily whale watching expeditions leaving from Bar Harbor, ME. In the middle of April, you are bound to see hungry finback, right, and minke whales in the cooler waters about 20 miles off the coast of Maine. Since the waters are full of plankton, copepods and fish, the whales have a field day until October, when the whales head south for warmer water.

Address: 1 West St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

6: Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey

The Whales: Blue, Finback, Humpback, Minke, North Atlantic Right, Pilot
When to Go: March to December
Similar to Long Island, New York (farther on down the list), the nutrient and food rich waters of the Delaware Bay attract a great quantity of whales to the coast of Cape May, NJ throughout the year—with a vast majority of whales being seen March to December as they pass from farther North. To do whale-watching in Cape May, you don’t have to leave the beach if you don’t want to, but for the most trusted tour, you go with Cape May Whale Watcher, which is a 3-hour expedition on the bay.

Address: Cape May, New Jersey

7: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/masstravel

The Whales: Fin, Minke, Humpback Whales
When to Go: April to October
Did you know that the World Wildlife Fund has designed Massachusetts as one of the top 10 whale-watching spots in the entire world? The locals are sure to tell you that there’s a 99% chance you will see whales—especially Fin, Minke, and Humpbacks. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about Moby Dick.

Address: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

8: Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/belindah

The Whales: Humpback Whales
When to Go: December to April
While humpbacks aren’t the only residents of the waters around Maui and over 20 species of whales have been spotted, they are the stars. Nearly every year over 3,000 humpback whales come to mate around Hawaii. If you are lucky enough, you might hear the males serenading the females. Also, you should visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which covers 1,400 square miles to protect the 4,000-10,000 humpback whales that come to birth their calves.

Address: Maui, Hawaii

9: Long Island, New York

Long Island, New York

The Whales: Sperm, North Atlantic Right, Blue, Sei, Fin, Humpback, and Minke Whales
When to Go: July to Early September
The nutrient-dense and food-rich waters around Long Island make it a magnet for all types of whales and other marine life. July through Labor Day is prime time to catch these majestic creatures, since that is when herring, sand eels, and marine crustaceans are less dormant. There are a number of whale watching cruises leaving all the time during this time from the town of Montauk, off the southern tip of Long Island.

Address: Long Island, NY

10: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Whales: Humpback Whales
When to Go: December to March
The prime time to see whales off of Virginia’s coast would be December to March, so bundle up! Fin whales, the second largest mammals in the entire world (behind blue whales), are also known to make appearances alongside the humpback whales. During the warmer months, you are more likely to see bottlenose dolphins in the waters as they head to the Chesapeake Bay area.

Address: Virginia Beach, VA

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